From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our fall and spring signature excursions are annual opportunities for Muslim men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Spring 2016: D&T Grrrl!

On April 22nd, fifteen women left for three days and two nights camped out on an island two-hours off the California coast. This blog is their story!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Prophecy Fulfilled?

Fifteen Muslim women together on an island off the coast of California.

It's not such a new idea, actually. In fact, the very name "California" is derived from the idea of a society of women thriving on an island paradise. I swear.

Brother Yusuf was with us when we trekked with llamas through the Western Sierra. Not long after, he sent me some information about the etymology of the word California.

It seems that way back in the 16th century, there was a writer living in Muslim Spain. His name was Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo and his works were kind of on the pulpy side. In one of his books he dreamed up a fantastic island where only women lived. They were a rough and lusty bunch, copulating with wayward sailors and then feeding the men (and any resultant baby boys) to their pet griffins.

Maybe something like that. I dunno.

That's pretty interesting, but it's not the point. The point is that Mr. Montalvo called this island with the women and the griffins "California." And Spanish sailors ate this stuff up so that when a bunch of them came up on what we now know to be Baja California, they totally thought it was an island. Maybe even the island, you know?

But where did Mr. Montalvo get the idea to call his island California?

This excerpt is from a book by Mark Forsyth, The Etymylogicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language:
"Montalvo called his island 'California' because it was ruled by a beautiful queen called Calafia . . . [who] has been persuaded to bring her army of ferocious women . . . to fight alongside Muslims and against Christians at the seige of Constantinople . . . . There are several theories as to why Montalvo chose the name Calafia, but by far the most convincing is that, as she was fighting alongside Muslims, her name was chosen to suggest or echo the title of the Muslim leader: the Caliph. ​​So California is really, ultimately, etymologically the last surviving Caliphate."
That's amazing. Islam is like totally built right into the name of our home state. And you women are, 500 years later, totally bringing Montalvo's fantasy to life. Sans griffins.

You're traveling to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Ventura on Earth Day, April 22nd, insha Allah. We're still building out the tribe, but here's who's in so far:

We are blessed to experience the magnificence of Sisters Adina, Amira, Sarah, Zenith, Rayesa, Wanda, Mariam, Syma, Khadeeja, and Umm Iman. Ustadha Lobna is tasked with keeping this motley bunch in order and on point. A big job, for sure.

You are a pioneering group, masha Allah. You've willfully chosen to capitalize on an opportunity that hasn't presented itself to our community in this way ever before. There is no precedent and there is inherent risk in that fact alone. Add to that a four-hour open-water crossing (round-trip) and three days on an island with nothing but the food in your packs to sustain you and you've got the makings of . . .

Or not. Time will tell.

You are not women that haven't been challenged before. Some of you aren't long out of college and you are just finding your feet in the world. Wonder and possibility war against fear and uncertainty and the nights often find you both exhausted and restless. Some of you gave up all you had to start your families early and it's only now that the fog of attachments and dependencies has cleared enough that you can once again see yourself. And some of you have experienced the gut-wrenching turmoil of familial disintegration and the loss of every hope and dream connected to your once happy home.

All of you and all of us- we're constantly recalibrating. Nothing stays the same. Ever.

And so the scholars remind us: Al-hamdu lillah 'ala kulli hal. In every situation, no matter the circumstances or the immediate effect upon us, we revere God Almighty. He alone is Constant.

The first time I visited Santa Cruz Island the place was teeming with mice. The ground upon which my tent was staked began to churn as the sun set, alive with rodents. They were everywhere and people were warned against coming because of the prevalence of hantavirus. I left my toilet paper and soap out. By morning they had been devoured, mice droppings everywhere.

The ecosystem had been radically altered by ranching operations. There were feral pigs hiding in the hills. Golden eagles had taken up residence and had decimated the island's fox population. No foxes to eat the mice and their population exploded.

I went back several years later and things were getting back to normal. Bald eagles were brought in to run off the golden eagles. The foxes came back and ate the mice. The pigs had all been hunted down by snipers taking aim from helicopters.

The paradise has steadily been restored. When the women of Dust and Tribe land this coming April, the 500 year-old prophecy of Calafia and her Amazons will be realized with your very first ritual prayer.

And so we set our intention:

We wish to gather together, in the Name of our Creator, our Provider, and our Sustainer, in gratitude to Him, in reverence for Him, and in pursuit of Him. We wish to acquire all knowledge that will make firm our gratitude, reverence, and patient seeking. We wish to deepen our relationships with all of creation, God's plants, animals, and heavenly ornaments, that we may be drawn into a realized understanding of His Might and His Mercy. We wish to be transformed by this experience, entirely for the better. We further ask that God Most High expand us, that we might graciously accept all that He desires for us.

May God strengthen our resolve and fix this intention fast upon our hearts.



  1. Replies
    1. Oooh! Got bintmuslim all fired up, masha Allah!

      You go!



  2. Sounds like quite the adventure awaits these brave women. Inshallah everyone has a fabulous time, learns a lot and comes home with stories to tell. And pictures to share :)